Friederich Maximillian Bernhardt Fincke was born January 7, 1821 in Trauen, Saxony (Germany). He was educated at the Gymnasium (high school) at Plauen, where his father was the director. Young Bernhardt was an exceptional student of mathematics, literature and languages. Circumstances led to his employment as an accountant in Plauen and then in Frankfort, where he moved in 1846.
While convalescing from an attack of typhoid in Frankfort, he was visited by Rev. William Taube, a follower of Hahnemann. Fincke studied under Taube learning Hahnemann’s method of preparing medicines. At this time Fincke potentized and prepared a set of medicines for his own use and experimentation.
In 1851, while attending a meeting of the Central Society of Homeopathic Physicians in Leipzig, Fincke met von Boenninghausen, who told him “The United States is the place for you, young man”. There he could finish his medical education and continue his studies of high potencies unhindered.
After his arrival in New York in 1852, Fincke enrolled in the University Medical College of The City of New York, graduating in 1854. He had studied under Draper, Post, and the famous Valentine Mott, who in a letter of introduction, said of Fincke, “I have never known him surpassed among the thousands I have had opportunity to examine”.
Fincke began his practice in Brooklyn, NY, where he was soon to become a stalwart Hahnemannian Homeopath, and an intimate friend of P.P. Wells and Carroll Dunham. He became a member of The American Institute of Homeopathy in 1855 and a member of The International Hahnemannian Association in 1890.
He was Chairman of the IHA’s Bureau of Homeopathic Philosophy, and President of the association in 1896. He became a close associate of Stuart Close and B.L.B. Baylies, all of them members of the Brooklyn Hahnemannian Union.
Stuart Close states that Fincke contributed 100’s of articles to the literature in a 50 year period. His papers can be found in the IHA and AIH Transaction and throughout the Medical Advance, Homeopathic Physician, The Organon, and American Homeopathic Review. One of his most notable papers is the proving of X-ray made by members of the Brooklyn Hahnemannian Union, and published in the IHA Transaction for 1897.
Confining himself to office practice, Fincke was devoted to writing, and more so, to his experiments with neural analysis (a method of objectively demonstrating the action of potencies). Fincke carried out experiments, the results of which were published in the IHA Transactions), concerning the preparation and proving of high potencies.
Fincke had begun his work with the potencies while still in Germany, and by 1860 had presented a paper on ‘Homeopathic Notation’ to the AIH, which detailed the method of preparation and notation of the potencies of Hahnemann, Aegidi, Korsakoff, Mueller, Roth,Lehrmann, Starke, Hering, Lentz, Mure, Meissner, Jeannes, Lux, Lutze, Roth, Joslin, Roellingk, Rouux, et al., and a proposed system of notation for general use. Also detailed were several methods he himself used to make potencies.
1865 saw the publication of his “On High Potencies and Homeopathics”, published by A.J. Tafel, at that time the sole agent for his potencies. Fincke later revealed that Tafel had offered to collect and publish the former’s cases from “The American Homeopathic Review” in book form to serve as a good advertisement for the sale of the potencies.
William Radde approached Fincke soon after the publication of “High Potencies”, demanding he, Fincke, expunge his statements to the effect that Radde’s edition of the Stratton translation of the Organon was untrue, as it would stop sales. Fincke refused and Radde went to Tafel with the ultimatum to either discontinue the sale of Fincke potencies or lose his trade with Radde. Thereafter, Fincke’s brother, an attorney, handled the sales.
In a memorial notice of Fincke’s death, it was claimed that he had invented one of the best potentizing machines that had ever been made, and that his potencies were recognized as the “best wherever Homeopathy is known”. Stuart Close stated the Fincke potencies “…furnished our greatest prescibers the means of performing their cures for nearly forty years, and which will be sufficient, with proper care, for the use of the profession for all time to come”.
Fincke was according to the Medical Advance obituary, “the acknowledged leader of the homeopathic school in expounding the philosophical work of Hahnemann”. Indeed, he had translated the “Organon” which was serialized in Hitchcock’s Journal of Homeopathics, the demise of which, left the work undone. The manuscript is extant and publication imminent.
Close relates that Fincke lived the life of a recluse, little known to members of the profession in his own city. “He was of a sensitive, retiring disposition, and slow to give his confidence. But once bestowed, his friendship never wavered”. Though somewhat estranged from Dunham over the latter’s liberal views, he remained his friend until Dunham’s untimely death in 1877.
In defense of high potency provings Fincke stated (Medical Advance, Mar. 1892):
“These objectors will have to learn that the experiment upon a healthy sensitive subject is worth as much and more than the experiments upon non-sensitives with crude substances and low potencies in large doses, because their symp- toms are more exactly defined, and of greater variety and number.
“They have yet to learn that the most interesting part of humanity, perhaps one half of it, are those individuals endowed with greater sensitivity than the other half. This quality is not confined to the high or low in rank, to the strong or weak, to the professional or working man , to the rich or poor.
“It is not an accompaniment of sickness called hysteria, or owing to a freak of nature called idiosyncracy, but it depends upon a natural organization which in some people is higher and finer than in others, especially in regard to the nervous system”.
Fincke died on October 21, 1906 in Brooklyn, NY.